I am a “woman of a certain age” with more time and means to travel than ever before. You may be in this category as well, but my husband is not only still working full time, but owns his own business. For this reason, getting him to leave town for more than 48 hours is a huge challenge. But I persist and we recently took 3 short jaunts that are not far from my home in New Jersey and are definitely worth a visit.
The Berkshires is in the western mountains of Massachusetts and is made up of small charming towns like Stockbridge, Great Barrington, Pittsfield, and my personal favorite Lennox. It is best known for outdoor activities and the arts.
The summer is prime time if you are going to enjoy artistic pleasures like The Shakespeare theater, Tanglewood – where the Bost Symphony is in residence, and Jacob’s Pillow – a dance program by big-name choreographers.
Off-season there is still plenty to do visiting museums like the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Mount – once Edith Wharton’s home, art galleries, shop for all types of clothing, shoes, and boots, etc and have a meal at any one of the great farm-to-table restaurants.
Staying in the Berkshires
The Berkshires is full of grand mansions built at the turn of the century for the uber-rich. Most of these have been sold off to become spas, hotels, golf clubs, etc. The prices to stay at these resorts are very high (The Whealeigh, Canyon Ranch, Blantyre and the brand new Miraval) Basically, you are not going to spend less than $1,00 per night at these choice spots.
Thank God there are plenty of Inns, B&B’s, and motels as well, enabling the more frugal traveler a wide selection of places to stay. On my last two trips, I stayed at The Seven Hills Inn conveniently located just outside the downtown of Lennox. It was a manor home built in 1851 and it was thoughtfully restored using a combination of old and modern furniture and accessories. It is very reasonably priced. You can also view their Instagram feed @sevenhillsinn.
We were there for New Year’s Eve and had dinner at Frankie’s – an old-world Italian restaurant frequented by locals.
After dinner, we made a fire in the fireplace in the parlor, drank wine, and curled up with a good book. A perfect way for me to spend New Year’s Eve.
On New Year’s day, we enjoyed some retail therapy in Lennox which has great boutiques with high-quality, unique merchandise. It was so refreshing to find unique things to wear, accessorize my home etc. The Stores we enjoyed the most are:
The second short jaunt worth a visit is Naples, Florida. I know what you are thinking – “I’ve been to Florida a million times.” I have been to Florida more times than I can count, so why would I want to go again when my options are so wide? Two reasons: I am looking for a spot to spend part of the winter in the coming years and second because I heard from so many people it was worth a trip.
While I have enjoyed many east coast spots like Miami, Coconut Grove, Boca Raton and Del Ray Beach, I had never been to the west coast.
So I booked a great house through VRBO and took the family for the Thanksgiving holiday. And I must agree the west coast of Florida has a completely different vibe than the east coast.
Overall it is a slower pace, less frenetic, and more open. The beaches are far more spectacular with the finest sand I have ever felt. There are a wide variety of beaches to choose from, depending on how far you want to drive and what best suits your needs. You can read a review of the Top 10 Beaches in Naples here.
The most popular beach is Vanderbilt Beach and it gets crowded, but offers watersports and restaurants on the beach. Do not miss lunch or a cocktail at the famed Ritz Carlton Hotel overlooking the Gulf.
Another beach worth your time is The Beach at Naples Pier. The pier is historic and used to be where ships would unload their goods. One of the best things about the Pier is that you can walk right into Old Town Naples.
Old Town is a fun, vibrant, place composed of historic buildings in bright colors that house restaurants, bars, and shops. There is also another separate downtown location called Fifth Avenue. As its name personifies, this is where you will find super luxury stores, restaurants, hotels, and residences.
We are a beach-loving family so we loved exploring the diverse beaches in Naples. You could go to a different one every day and they each have their own personality. Not many places offer that. The fine white powdery sand (which doesn’t get hot in the sun), the magical blue crystal clear water, and the two downtown areas make Naples a great jaunt.
West Hampton, NY
Though we live in New Jersey we don’t really patronize New Jersey beaches for more than day trips. We find the majestic beauty of the Hamptons to be much more to our liking. Over the years we have stayed in Amagansett, Montauk, East Hampton, and South Hampton. And we love each and every one of them and their distinct personalities. However, the traffic has become so bad since there’s only one road into and out of these towns, it is no longer a great option for a summer beach vacation for us.
So, two summers ago. we decided to investigate West Hampton Beach on our way back from South Hampton. It is an hour closer to our home and doesn’t require going on Route 27 (it’s the closest Hampton to NYC). It used to be THE spot in the late 1980’s, but everything pushed further East since then.
When we explored the town we were pleasantly surprised. It’s so unpopular, it’s kind of edgy in its own way. The walkable downtown is vibrant with stores, restaurants, bars, and even a Ben & Jerry’s. And the beaches are every bit as beautiful as the towns further out east.
Staying in West Hampton
As in all the Hamptons, there are few choice places to stay. Through a bit of research, I found a group of cozy cottages located right on Dune Road at the website Stay Marquis. The cottages are between a studio and a one-bedroom in size with all the amenities necessary to make for a fun stay. There’s a king-sized bed, little kitchenette, table with 2 chairs, a sitting room, deck with gas grill, picnic table and an outdoor shower.
It came with plenty of beach towels, chairs, bikes, and snacks. And the best part? All we had to do is cross the road and walk down a path to the beach. No car necessary. That alone makes it a worthy jaunt.
Overall, I hope you enjoyed my recommendations of 3 short jaunts worth a visit. If you have comments or would like to share, please feel free.